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Ayn Rand’s Interview With Johnny Carson

July 23, 2012

America’s most controversial philosopher Ayn Rand gave a number of interviews after achieving enormous popularity following the publication of her two bestselling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. She was first interviewed Mike Wallace, and by Phil Donahue, who interviewed her twice, Tom Snyder, and Johnny Carson. It was absolutely news to me that Carson once met and interviewed the goddess of the market 0n his The Johnny Carson Show twice in 1967.

In this interview Rand explained in brief her philosophy of Objectivism.

The following are the highlights of the interview.

Johnny Carson: “Your Objectivism is almost contrary to the cultural beliefs as people have been brought up through as to sacrifice the good of your fellow men and not to have self-egoism and self-sacrifice as you call it. And you’re saying that man should serve first his own self-interest and be interested in himself first.”

Ayn Rand: “I wouldn’t say ‘first’; I would say ‘only’. But you would have to explain it. Other men can be of interest to an individual if they represent values– moral values. You serve your own interest best by finding, associating with, working with the right kind of people. Therefore other people can be a value- great value- to a man but only when and if they correspond to his moral ideals, not otherwise. In other words, man does not have to serve anyone except himself. But he does, in effect, serve others when their interests and their values agree.”

Carson also asks the following question: “You find that very young children who are by nature selfish. Young children are completely self-oriented. Now did they learn that or is that something that is inherent in the very young that they are completely self-oriented?”

Ayn Rand: “Oh I think that’s inherent in everything that’s living. It’s inherent in any living entity, an entity which was not concerned with itself or an entity that did not value itself, did not exist for very long. But now children are below the understanding of the issue and in effect do not yet have a choice. It is when children begin to speak, when they begin to acquire ideas that their choice begins. And the idea of self-sacrifice is a totally
artificial, very evil idea, which children and adult learn from others, which is passed from person to person. That doesn’t mean that if a child were left alone he would naturally be selfish properly. No, because it is an enormous achievement to discover rational selfishness– not acting on whim of pleasure of the moment, but knowing what is rationally an important goal, of what value is it to you, and how to achieve it. The idea of being rationally selfish is not available to children. It would take a long period of thought or the proper teaching for them to discover it.”

On the issue of faith, Ayn Rand says that “religion is the infancy of mankind.”

Here’s a very excellent, interesting exchange.

Johnny Carson:  “Who sets the moral standards? People say the churches should set the moral standards. The parents should set the moral standards.

Ayn Rand: “The philosophers.”

Johnny Carson: “The philosophers set them?”

Ayn Rand: “Properly. Now you say ‘who should’… Historically yes, the churches set them for much too long and with disastrous consequences. But if you ask me ‘who should’– philosophers.”

Johnny Carson: “But not all philosophers have the same judgement, do they?”

Ayn Rand: “No. And therefore what is the arbiter: Reason.”

Johnny Carson: “Well, it has to come down to the individual again.”

Ayn Rand: “Each individual has to decide what he concludes is rights. But then who will he determine who is objectively right? The one who can prove his case. The one who can prove the kind of code of morality he advocates without any contradictions.”

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